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Sword Art Online: Lost Song – Review

Released in 2015 as a sequel to Hollow Fragment on PS3 in Japan only, but was released on the Vita and PS4 outside. This game takes place in ALFheim Online, the second MMO in the anime franchise. Just like Hollow Fragment, this takes place in its own alternate timeline from the anime, and features characters that only exist in the game franchise, such as Phillia and Strea.

Story:

A new expansion to ALFheim Online, this means new areas to explore, and new challenges. Kirito and friends decide to go check it out. Prior to this, Kirito is interested in a professor who goes by the name Seven, and is interested in her studies regarding Virtual Reality. Seven happens to be a player in ALFheim Online, and is the head of the Shamrock guild, the biggest and strongest guilds in the game, especially with her bodyguard Sumeragi. As the game goes on, you meet a mysterious girl named Rain who is following you and Shamrock’s movements.

While the plot initially seems interesting, it’s like the floor clearing portions of Hollow Fragment where the plot is largely non-existant, outside of random parts here and there. Even then, you have no idea what the hell is going on in the story until literally the very end of the game. Right before the final boss fight, the entire plot is revealed. Sure some really great games have done that, and it worked, but the poor execution of the story really has you not caring, especially when it’s almost non-existent until the end. Kirito’s motivation for following Seven? “I’m interested in her experiment”. What does Seven do throughout the game? Nothing. Well she likes hiding from Sumeragi, and popping her head into Agil’s tavern to eat cake and flirt with Kirito.

Spoiler alert: Seven’s the final boss of the game. She becomes evil… kind of… at the very end of the game. Why does Kirito want to stop her when he finds out about her experiment? Because he wants to beat the game. Saving people? NOPE! Is the experiment bad? NOPE!

In a very similar fashion to the previous game, when you complete certain dungeons or events in the game, you are “rewarded”, with random non-story related cutscenes. These cutscenes are really just fanservice to see Kirito dealing with his ever-growing harem. You are treated to scenes like, Kirito hiding a porn mag from Asuna. Strea making Asuna try on underwear, and a swimsuit scene complete with giant tentacle action. Riveting.

Gameplay:

The game feels more like an action RPG than Hollow Fragment. You have a choice between weaker melee attacks, or a stronger melee attack. They give you a limit on your stronger attacks by having it take up stamina. You also have a special attack that takes up SP, and most of these are significantly more powerful than your strong melee. You also have a choice of using magic spells, and in typical RPG fashion, they’re either attacks, or support. In regards to gaining new abilities, this is one of those games where you learn them by using your specials or spells more and more.

Venturing out with a party is significantly upgraded from Hollow Fragment. In that game, you really felt like a one man show, you really only went out with a partner, because you either have to, or you might not want to feel lonely. Here, you get to go out with two party members, and it actually feels like your party members make a difference in gameplay experience. Having two long range attackers, like Asuna and Sinon, can whittle down an enemy from a distance before you go in for the kill. You also have a choice of not even playing as Kirito, or having him in your party at all. This can help change up your gameplay experience, as many of the characters play differently than Kirito, as they have different spells and weapon abilities. Sure you can just have Kirito equip a two handed sword like Strea, but what’s the fun in that?

As this game takes place in ALFheim, the game introduced flying. This will most likely become your preferred method of travel, as flying is significantly faster than walking. Flying has its hit and misses. Aerial combat is a fun gimmick at first, but as the game goes on, it actually starts losing its fun pretty quickly. Especially when enemies start knocking you down from the air. This gets annoying when you’re near a hoard of enemies that you’re trying to kill to complete a hunt, and even more annoying during aerial boss fights. Particularly during the boss fights, there are times where you get knocked down, then you fly back up, and it hits you down again.

Gone are the dating mechanics of the previous game. This is actually a good thing, as it really didn’t add anything to the game, besides saying you banged your favorite girl, and all the trophies you get from it. Instead, at certain points in the game, you’ll see glowing dots in the central hub, and that’ll trigger an event with a girl.

Visuals:

Unlike Hollow Fragment, which was a remake of a PSP game, this one is made from the ground up on the PS3. Thus the graphics do justice to the anime artstyle of the series. Outside of a relatively few FMV cutscenes, much of the story scenes are told through a visual novel style, where the characters are displayed in a cutout style, where you see them talk.

One of the biggest disappointments, is the lack of enemy diversity. The majority of the enemies you see in the first area, are recycled in every single area, but with different color pallets. While a lot of RPG’s like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest recycle do this practice, they at least have a large cast of enemies. In Lost Song, there’s really about 20 or so enemies, and they’re recycled in every single area and dungeon. The overall area maps look different, but all of the caves and dungeons look almost exactly the same, so it does feel pretty redundant after awhile.

Comparing the two non-Japanese releases, the PS4 version is clearly the better of the two. While the character models aren’t a vast improvement, the overall textures and visual effects look better. Caves have fog on the ground, and there’s blades of grass and more enemies on screen. That’s not to say that you’re getting a poor man’s version on the Vita, as it’s still visually impressive on the handheld.

Music:

The music is pretty decent, yet not very memorable. It’s in a similar style to the anime, and to Hollow Fragment.

 

Verdict:

Lost Song is a pretty decent game. Though unless you’re a fan of SAO, or just looking for a decent length RPG on the PS4 or Vita, you’re most likely not going to get inspired to go and pick up a copy of the game. The game expects you to know who the main cast are, and that will off-put a lot of newcomers.

While combat and lack of dating mechanics make it a step up from Hollow Fragment, it does feel like a significantly shorter game, due to the large amount of things to do in Hollow Fragment.

Music: 6/10.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.
Story: 5/10.
Content: 7/10.

Conclusion: 6/10